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Who Should Use Creatine and Why? (Hint: Almost Everybody)

How Creatine Compares to Multivitamins

None of us question why millions, if not billions, of people, take multivitamins religiously even though there’s not much evidence of any real health benefits. In fact, compared to the proven physical impacts of creatine, more people from all walks of life may have more to gain by ditching multivitamins altogether in favor of daily creatine supplementation.

Though the average person hasn’t even heard of creatine, those who have either think it’s just for over-the-top tractor tire jugglers or one of the top ten PEDs outlawed by major league sports. The truth is, dads, moms, aunts, uncles, granny and gramps, and your sister’s boyfriend’s third cousin should probably all be taking creatine on a regular basis.

Is Creatine the Cure for Old Bastarditis?

As we age and slow down, our muscle tissue begins to wither and become atrophic (saggy, mushy, small, and weak). This process, called sarcopenia, reduces our ability and desire to do strenuous tasks…or even get out of the recliner. The less you physically feel capable of doing, the less you want to even try to do. So, how can we combat that gradual descent into Old Bastarditis?

Your first thought may be weight lifting. Trying to get started on a strength training regimen after years of a sedentary lifestyle (a.k.a. sitting on your butt for 8-10 hours a day) is not an easy lifestyle change and if you suggest it to mom or grandma you’re likely to get a grunt or a “yeah, right!”…maybe even a slap if your Nana’s the old school type.

The great news is that several studies have found that supplementing your diet with creatine is enough to reverse some of the muscle wasting that results from sarcopenia. And we’re talking without doing a single bicep curl. Needless to say, if you are able and willing to add some type of resistance training on a regular basis, creatine supplementation will have even better results. But either way, the fact that creatine works to support healthy muscle tissue without any strenuous exertion is a big motivator to nix the “gym-rats-only” reputation and promote creatine supplementation to the masses.

Creatine for the Long Game

Living longer is the ultimate goal for most of us. Whether it’s through healthy eating, avoiding dangerous situations, or just taking that mostly-useless multivitamin, most of us do something to try to extend our lifespan. Supporting the healthy function of all of your organs on a cellular level is one of the most effective ways to live a longer life. Mitochondria, the part of the human cell that makes the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) molecules that carry energy throughout the body, can get a good boost from a variety of compounds. The most well-known of these are NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), Coenzyme Q10, and PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone). Compounds that keep the energy flowing also influence the longevity of each cell. As each cell is a building block of the organs that keep our cardiovascular, digestive, neurological, and other bodily systems thriving, cellular health is vital to overall health and wellness. Well, studies have shown that creatine is just as important and effective as those previously mentioned mitochondria-boosting compounds, and perhaps even more effective than all of them! Creatine raises ATP levels, thus helping to extend the life and vitality of cells, organs, and ultimately the whole human.

Fueling the Heart with Creatine

We talked about how creatine supports energy production on a cellular and organ level, but now we’re going to get specific and tell you how creatine can promote the health of the engine that keeps it all going, the heart. People who suffer from heart failure experience inadequate levels of ATP. As a result, they experience sluggishness, are easily exhausted, and can’t handle everyday tasks like climbing stairs.

Although creatine’s direct effect on the actual blood-pumping action of the heart (ejection fraction) has not been proven, it has been shown that creatine has shown promise in boosting energy levels in cardiac patients.

With increased energy, patients are better able to perform the activities of daily living, thus improving the overall quality and perhaps the length of life. When you have more energy and feel stronger, your whole life can be more enjoyable. Whether it’s just being able to walk up a flight of stairs without taking a break or getting your groove on at the senior center sock hop, life’s just that much more fun.

Other Conditions that Creatine Can Conquer

Ok, so maybe “conquer” is a little too much to ask, but creatine can help alleviate or improve an array of other health problems that nobody seems to talk about. Firstly, creatine is effective in lowering blood sugar levels, especially when it is used in conjunction with working out. The belief is that this blood sugar lowering effect stems from a “nutrient partitioning” mechanism whereby creatine helps the body store carbohydrates in muscle tissue, rather than storing them as fat.

Another healthy benefit of creatine is that it helps to increase the body’s natural manufacturing of osteoblasts. These are the cells that makeup bone tissue. This is especially important in older people, as it helps with repairing bones after fractures and may even decrease the development of osteoarthritis.

Those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) may see improvement in their condition when taking creatine since it helps reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. Again, using creatine in conjunction with regular exercise can further improve the condition since losing weight is another way to reduce the build-up of fat in the liver.

Fibromyalgia, an often debilitating condition, can also be improved with the use of creatine. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia may experience widespread pain all through the body, as well as extreme fatigue, emotional distress, and sleep problems. Since the condition is caused by very low natural creatine phosphate levels, which in turn results in low ATP levels, supplementing with creatine can be the relief they need to reach a balance and relieve the pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.

Recommended Creatine Usage for Optimal Results

While there are many different ways to use creatine, aka “creatine loading”, depending on your needs, there is a standard recommendation that suits most people.

  1. Determine your bodyweight in kilograms.
  2. Multiply your weight by 0.3 grams.
  3. Divide the result into four doses.
  4. Take one dose four times a day for five to seven days.
  5. Once “loaded”, take only a maintenance dose of 3 – 5 grams per day ongoing.

For those who can’t follow the suggested loading regimen, it is okay to just take around 5 grams a day for 30 days. By then, you’ll have reached what is called the “maximum cellular storage capacity”. Then, you can continue with the maintenance dose of 3 – 5 grams every day.

The best form of creatine to take is called “micronized creatine.” Micronized creatine offers better absorption by the body that other forms you may find on the market. Better absorption means better results and less waste.

When to Take Creatine for Best Results

Once you’ve reached saturation levels with creating (i.e. following the loading regimen outlined above), you don’t need to be concerned about what time of day you take your maintenance dose.

That being said, an interesting study was performed that showed a significant increase in the development of lean body mass among weightlifters who took 5 grams of creatine AFTER their workout, compared with a group of weightlifters who took the same amount prior to their workouts. Those who took the post-workout dosage also saw more fat loss than those in the pre-workout group by about 2 pounds of fat reduction.

The researchers who performed the study hypothesized that either the strenuous workout made cells more sensitive to creatine uptake, or perhaps the meal that was eaten after the workout caused a surge of insulin that boosted the creatine uptake. Either way, it was obvious that the best time to take creatine is after working out if that is your regimen. For those who do not work out (or on non-gym days), it is okay to take creatine at any time of the day.

SOURCES

  1. Persky AM et al. Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacological Reviews. 2001 Jun;53 2)161-176.
  2. Gualano B et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in sedentary healthy males undergoing aerobic training. Amino Acids. 2008 Feb;34(2):245-50.
  3. Antonio J et al. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36.

RELATED:Best Creatine for Muscle Growth: Top Creatine Monohydrate Products

SOURCES

  1. Persky AM et al. Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacological Reviews. 2001 Jun;53 2)161-176.
  2. Gualano B et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in sedentary healthy males undergoing aerobic training. Amino Acids. 2008 Feb;34(2):245-50.
  3. Antonio J et al. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36.

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